Saturday, January 9, 2016

"A Perfect Victim" by Patricia Dusenbury

A Perfect Victim
(Claire Marshall Mysteries Book 1)
by Patricia Dusenbury

Patricia Dusenbury's A Perfect Victim won the EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) 2015 award for best mystery. The author stops by for an interview and to share an excerpt from the book. You can also read my review.

A Perfect Victim is the first book of a trilogy, which, if it had a name, would be called A Path Through the Ashes. Each book is a standalone mystery. Also available: Secrets, Lies & Homicide (an EPIC award finalist for 2016) and A House of Her Own.

Claire Marshall’s world crumbled when her husband died in a fire. She’s trying to build a new life - and a business restoring historic houses. Then one of her clients is found dead in a burned building. The police suspect her of arson or murder, maybe both.
It’s her own fault. Finding the charred ruin of Frank’s cabin in a remote corner of Louisiana’s bayou country revived horrible memories of her husband's death. She suffered a panic attack. Calling the sheriff hours later wasn't good enough.
No one believes Claire's relationship with the late Frank Palmer was strictly business. After all, he spent his last days telling the world they were in love and planning to marry. How do you win an argument with a dead man?
Claire's quest to prove her innocence before the police "prove" her guilt becomes an investigation into the victim's life. It takes her back in time, from New Orleans to rural Alabama, to the high country of New Mexico, where she comes face to face with the real killer. Forced to fight for her life, she realizes how much she wants to live.

Claire inched away from the water's edge. Swarming mosquitoes formed black swatches as they attacked her exposed flesh. She slathered mud on her arms, face and neck, ankles and feet. The mosquitoes found vulnerable spots around her eyes and mouth, in her ears and nose. They were driving her crazy.
Two more gunshots punched holes in the swamp sounds. One bullet hit the ground near her leg and sent shards of oyster shell into her thigh. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. The mosquitoes dispersed for a moment, but her blood drew them back, and a black cloud descended on her wound. When she batted them away, they attacked her hands. She wanted to scream.
She crawled deeper into the marsh. The tall grass sheltered her, but it also prevented her from seeing more than a couple feet in any direction. Half-buried oyster shells shredded her slacks and scraped the skin from her hands and knees. Sharp blades of grass sliced her arms. Each cut drew blood and sent the mosquitoes into a fresh frenzy.
A bright light moved toward her. He had turned his spotlight on the marsh. She crawled faster, moving away from his light as quickly as she could. Her right hand slid forward onto nothing, and she somersaulted down a bank into waist deep water, a creek running through the marsh. The light swung in the direction of her splash. She huddled against the creek bank until it moved on.
Half-swimming half-walking against the current and staying as low as possible, she followed the winding stream until it curved around a bend and spread into wide shallows. Moonlight glittered on a wide expanse of open water, a lake too large to swim across that offered neither haven nor help.
She let the incoming tide carry her back around the bend. The little creek was safer. If she knelt on the bottom, the water came to her neck. Tenting her blouse over her head sheltered her face from the mosquitoes. She could stay here until he gave up and left. When daylight came, she could look for a way back to her car that didn't involve swimming across that channel.
When Claire was a little girl, she'd made deals with God, promising to be good if He would just talk her mother into letting her stay up late to watch a favorite television show or help her pass the math test. Things like that. She hadn't asked for favors in years, and after Tom died, she'd stopped believing that God cared what happened to her. Tonight, kneeling in the creek, she prayed for her life.

Praise for the Book
"What a great read! A fast-paced story with a dusky bayou backdrop and enough intrigue and action to keep the reader guessing and turning the page. I stayed up past my bedtime to finish this one. And it was late and dark and I can admit to being a little afraid, reading the conclusion in the quiet of my home office." ~ Something Gumshoe
"A fast-paced tale of deception and mystery. The characters are memorable, as is the plot and the setting of New Orleans. A must read! Patricia Dusenbury has crafted a memorable tale, and I can't wait for her next novel." ~ Sharon S
" ... a sharp, smart and cleanly written mystery about a place many of us only think we know: the psyche. She works her knowledge and love of New Orleans into each page and character. As a smart but neurotic heroine/sleuth, Claire is sympathetic and unique." ~ Alicia Griswold
" ... I loved this book, not only because it was set in the Big Easy (always intriguing), but because the characters had such depth. Claire’s emotional evolution was as fascinating as the plot, which had more twists and turns than a croc’s death roll. And it was a joy to watch as she discovered that while a scar may never disappear, it will fade. Great reading. Can’t wait to move on to the next book in the series." ~ L. Palmer
"I loved this mystery/thriller and can't wait for the next two books in the trilogy!" ~ S Miller

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Claire is a widow who suffers from panic attacks since the death of her husband a year earlier. When one of her wealthy clients shows up dead in suspicious circumstances - and the bodies start piling up - Claire becomes a suspect and sets out to clear her name.
Claire is not a very likable character and seems to bring on a lot of her difficulties herself. However, she does grow on you as the story progresses. There are so many other characters to keep track of, but they all add interest - and I guess you have to have a large pool of suspects in a mystery. The plot is action-packed, especially toward the end, and the identity of the victim referred to in the book title comes as a surprise, as does the identity of the killer.
This one will keep you guessing.

Interview With the Author
Hi Patricia, thanks for joining me today to discuss your book, A Perfect Victim.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
My books are written for adults, but I have teenaged grandchildren and am very aware that they may become curious. There is sex but nothing graphic and violence but nothing gory. There is nothing - in my opinion, but I do live in San Francisco - that a teenager shouldn’t read.
What sparked the idea for this book?
A news story many years ago about a man who took advantage of women on many levels. It left me outraged. And I’d always toyed with the idea of writing a mystery.
So, which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
I wanted to rewrite what had happened to one foolish woman, to alter reality so that, in the end, she won. In the process, the real woman evolved into a fictional character I really cared about. The story changed dramatically and went for two more books. I started with a story and became driven by the character.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
The beginning. I have numerous attempts at Chapter 1. This book and any other, once I get started I’m okay, but getting in gear is hard.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it entertains people and takes them out of the everyday hassle. I hope they cheer for Claire and enjoy time in New Orleans.
How long did it take you to write this book?
Too long to admit. I wrote one version and put it aside for years because life got in the way. I revised it and sent it out and then began writing the next book, which went faster but still not quickly. I’m a slow writer.
What is your writing routine?
When I first wake up (early) I lie in bed and think about the book. I get up, walk the dog, eat breakfast, and then write for a few hours.
How did you get your book published?
Persistence. The first agent I contacted, a woman with a New York agency, responded positively. We went back and forth for a few months, and then she stopped answering my emails. I queried numerous other agents, none of whom bothered to respond. Eventually I decided to try e-publishers, and found a list Piers Anthony had posted. I started at the back of the alphabet, looking for publishers interested in mysteries. The first one I queried, Uncial Press, accepted my book. And then it won the industry’s 2015 award for best mystery. It’s been a long journey, but it had a happy ending.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Nothing other people haven’t said. Hang in there and keep trying to produce a better book. Step one is showing up, and that applies to writing as well as most other things in life. Find people whose opinion you respect, and listen to what they say, but don’t forget that it’s your book.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Hang out with family and friends, read, go to the beach, garden, listen to music - nothing out of the ordinary.
What does your family think of your writing?
Good question. They say they enjoy reading my books, but what else could they say?
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. I was the oldest of three girls, a tomboy, a tree climber, and a horse-lover. We traipsed through woods and swamps in pursuit of various small animals, took long bike rides in the summer, ice-skated in the winter. It was very Norman Rockwell.
Sounds great. Did you like reading when you were a child?
I loved to read and still do. I read under the covers when my parents thought I was asleep. No one censored my choice of books, and when I was old enough to know how funny it was, my mother showed me a book report ten-year-old me had written about The Scarlet Letter. I thought "A" stood for "awful".
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve known I wanted to write fiction for a long time but I also had a family and a demanding – and interesting – career. I fooled around with writing after my children graduated from high school but didn’t really pursue it until I retired. As noted previously, I’m a slow writer. I need lots of time.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
All that reading, which I’ve never stopped. I still read book after book and have a to-be-read stack beside the bed. My female characters tend toward the tomboy.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
I’m a huge fan of Ann Patchett, Anne Tyler, Donna Leon, John LeCarré, Kate Atkinson, Louise Penny – I could go on for ages.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
People like Claire Marshall, my main character, which makes me happy because I like her too. I hope they will be satisfied with her fate at the end of Book 3, A House of Her Own, released October 2015.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
My first three books are stand-alone mysteries, but together, they are a trilogy that could be described as a romance. I’m working on a new book that is more of a thriller but still character driven. There are bodies and bad guys, of course. The main relationship is a very difficult one between a mother and the, now grown, son she left behind years ago - hardly a romance. I’m also fooling around with a book that is more purely romance, although not one between "beautiful people". The working title is The Con Man and the Cat Lady.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, Patricia. Best of luck with your future projects.

About the Author
Patricia Dusenbury was one of those children who read under the covers when her parents thought she was asleep. (She still reads into the wee hours but now uses a Kindle.) Despite sleep deprivation, she managed to get through college and a career as an economist/strategic planner. Now retired, she hopes to atone for all her dry economic analyses and reports by writing books that people read for pleasure and not because their job requires it.
Her first book, A Perfect Victim, won the 2015 EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) award for best mystery. Her second book, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a finalist for the 2016 EPIC award and was a top ten finisher in the 2014 Preditors and Editors Readers Poll. Her third, A House of Her Own, was released in October 2015.
Each book stands alone; together, they trace a young widow's recovery from emotional devastation. If the trilogy were one book, It would be called A Path Through the Ashes, which was the working title of the first book. Pat also writes short stories and, every month, posts a new one on the Lagniappe page of her website.
Patricia Dusenbury lives with a large Malamute on a very steep street in San Francisco. When she isn't writing, she can be found hanging out with the grandkids, gardening, or exploring the fantastic city that is her new home.